From God-Awareness to Self-Awareness & Its Psychological Effects | Part 1

By Mas’ūd Nūr ‘Alīzādeh

Edited by Saiyid Hasan Ali Rizvi

The following is the 1st part of a series of translations of the book From God-Awareness to Self-Awareness & Its Psychological Effects By Mas’ūd Nūr ‘Alīzādeh.  I have made certain edits, omissions, and additions where I felt appropriate.  These edits have not been reflected in the text in any way, so please do not consider this a word for word translation.  I’ve made this decision because I personally feel that too many parenthetical, bracketed, & annotated additions can rob the reader of their attention & focus.  When you find mistakes, they will most likely be my own, so please do inform me.  At times, the text may seem overly technical & overwhelming to those not familiar with the field of psychology.  Don’t worry & don’t get lost in the terminology.  There lie important & profound messages behind all the fancy jargon.  Take those at the very least.  InshAllah, I hope to continue translating this work, as well as other works in the field of Islamic Psychology, an extremely important topic that unfortunately has received little attention by many speakers & scholars.  Your comments & feedback are always appreciated.


As a psychological construct, God-awareness has deeply profound effects on the influence of the “self”, which is the core of the psychological system & the axis of human identity.  This book seeks to address & identify the nature of the relationship between God-awareness & self-awareness based on Islamic teachings & through an analysis of empirical research.  What we hope to show is that God-awareness functions & operates as a psychological tool which aids in self-regulation & providing sound mental health.

Self-recognition, its structure, & its processes are among the most important discussions concerning human beings.  Various religions, philosophical schools, and researchers in psychology have set their sights on this topic since time immemorial.  The reason for this subject receiving attention can also be traced to its relevance in the different realms of psychology, specifically in the area of pathology.  Experts in pathology attribute behavioral problems & mental & psychological disorders to the self, which is the center of human identity.  In 1999, Robins and his associates evaluated over 153,000 articles regarding the idea of self-referencing.  One of the essential aspects addressed in these articles was an examination of the feeling of self-awareness.  In their research, “the self” was determined to be the fundamental agent of optimal identity due to the fact that “the self”, through processes of self-awareness, systematizes human behavior & experience.

The self, as the control center of the mental system & the heart of human identity, is the most focal subject of discussion amongst psychologists, particularly personality theorists like Jung, Rogers, & Allport.  The self is a manifestation & reflection of the unity, universality, organization, & equilibrium in cognition, emotion, & behavior.  In addition, it improves integration, adjustment, self-esteem, self-regulation, self-fulfillment, activeness, & mental health.  Processes of self-awareness, which are some of the most important structures of identity, perform a key role within these functions.

The inception of psychological studies in self-awareness began from the birth of psychoanalysis.  Even prior to that, William James had started his research in this field.  However, the history of the investigation regarding the formation & transformation of self-awareness goes back to the latter half of the 20th century, which occurred simultaneously with the boom of cognitive sciences.  After researchers in psychology had investigated self-awareness, they had discovered various processes directly stemming from it, which came under different, sometimes contradictory headings, though they were the same content-wise.  Scholars have examined the connections these processes have with psychological functions and their effects.  In 1975, Allan Fenigstein and his associates discussed the concept of self-consciousness in an effort to assess the underlying structures of self-awareness.  However, these efforts came with certain maladaptive & negative outcomes.  Researchers offered other ideas such as self-awareness & integrative self-knowledge along with corresponding tools for assessment.  Also proposed within the processes of self-awareness were other related structures like mindfulness, self-reflection, & self-contemplation.

In this present work, self-awareness is beyond the notion of self-knowledge, compromise formation*, psychodynamics, & cohesion, which are borne from cognitive structures & processes as well as emotions and feelings.  Self-awareness includes one’s attention, evaluation, perception, & cognizance of existential dimensions, thoughts, feelings, attitudes, & behaviors throughout the course of time.

*In psychology, a compromise formation is a symptom that comes from a compromise between our inner drives and impulses on one hand, and the demands of external reality on the other.

Experts have described self-awareness processes as effective in promoting good mental health.  Self-consciousness is related to positive mental health & integrative self-knowledge.  This integrative self-knowledge is more than mere personality factors.  These processes possess incremental validity in the anticipation of sound mental health.  There exists a very significant correlation between this integrative self-knowledge, other cognitive processes & personality processes.  Self-awareness is also closely positively related to other cognitive processes such as self-efficacy, emotional intelligence, and empathy.  Likewise, mindfulness can be a predictor of self-regulated behavior & positive emotional states.  In addition, not only has self-awareness been shown to reduce stress and other mental & mood disorders; in fact, research & results from numerous clinical trials have also supported the idea that self-awareness plays a positive role in managing & fighting overall stress.

Researchers and theorists discuss the concept of the human self, how it’s structured, & the processes of self-awareness from 2 perspectives, namely theoretical & clinical.  Islamic Scholars have their own distinct methodology and in this regard, have introduced God-awareness as the most fundamental method for creating, fostering, and maintaining self-awareness.

وَلا تَكونوا كَالَّذينَ نَسُوا اللَّهَ فَأَنساهُم أَنفُسَهُم ۚ أُولٰئِكَ هُمُ الفاسِقونَ

59:19 – And do not be like those who forget Allah, so He makes them forget their own selves. It is they who are open sinners.

God-awareness annihilates the barrier that prevents us from recognizing the eternal and theomorphic (fiṭrī) relationship between God and the self, His intense proximity to us, His perpetual presence, our continuous connection, & essentially, the divine soul of man.

الَّذينَ إِذا أَصابَتهُم مُصيبَةٌ قالوا إِنّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنّا إِلَيهِ راجِعونَ

2:156 – those who, when an affliction reaches them, say, ‘Indeed we belong to Allah, and to Him we are indeed returning.’

قُل مَن رَبُّ السَّماواتِ وَالأَرضِ قُلِ اللَّهُ ۚ قُل أَفَاتَّخَذتُم مِن دونِهِ أَولِياءَ لا يَملِكونَ لِأَنفُسِهِم نَفعًا وَلا ضَرًّا ۚ قُل هَل يَستَوِي الأَعمىٰ وَالبَصيرُ أَم هَل تَستَوِي الظُّلُماتُ وَالنّورُ ۗ أَم جَعَلوا لِلَّهِ شُرَكاءَ خَلَقوا كَخَلقِهِ فَتَشابَهَ الخَلقُ عَلَيهِم ۚ قُلِ اللَّهُ خالِقُ كُلِّ شَيءٍ وَهُوَ الواحِدُ القَهّارُ

13:16 – Say, ‘Who is the Lord of the heavens and the earth?’ Say, ‘Allah!’ Say, ‘Have you then taken others besides Him for guardians, who have no control over their own benefit or harm?’ Say, ‘Are the blind one and the seer equal? Or are the darkness and the light equal?’ Have they set up for Allah partners who have created like His creation, so that the creations seemed confusable to them? Say, ‘Allah is the creator of all things, and He is the One, the All-paramount.’

وَلَقَد خَلَقنَا الإِنسانَ وَنَعلَمُ ما تُوَسوِسُ بِهِ نَفسُهُ ۖ وَنَحنُ أَقرَبُ إِلَيهِ مِن حَبلِ الوَريدِ

50:16 – Certainly We have created man and We know to what his soul tempts him, and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.

يا أَيُّهَا الَّذينَ آمَنُوا استَجيبوا لِلَّهِ وَلِلرَّسولِ إِذا دَعاكُم لِما يُحييكُم ۖ وَاعلَموا أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَحولُ بَينَ المَرءِ وَقَلبِهِ وَأَنَّهُ إِلَيهِ تُحشَرونَ

8:24 – O you who have faith! Answer Allah and the Apostle when he summons you to that which will give you life. Know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart and that toward Him you will be mustered.

فَإِذا سَوَّيتُهُ وَنَفَختُ فيهِ مِن روحي فَقَعوا لَهُ ساجِدينَ

15:29 – So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My spirit, then fall down in prostration before him.’

Based on this, the correct approach towards true self-awareness in cognitive adjustment, cognitive activation, & mental health is directly concomitant with God-awareness.

God-awareness is defined as cognizance of Him, attention to Him, feeling His presence, & having a connection and relationship with Him which is continuous & unbreakable.  Dhikr, remembrance of God, is the most fundamental bridge for building this relationship with the source of all existence.  This remembrance causes the existential and theomorphic dimensions of a human being to flourish & blossom.  Dhikr, (God-awareness), is in reality self-awareness & is an internal witnessing process for regaining the self.

فَاذكُروني أَذكُركُم وَاشكُروا لي وَلا تَكفُرونِ

2:152 – Remember Me, and I will remember you, and thank Me, and do not be ungrateful to Me.

Hidden within this constant attention and indestructible existential relationship with God lies the real existence, identity, & personality of humankind.  God-awareness, from fundamental religious & functional aspects, sits dormant within a person.  It integrates, unites, & provides cohesion to one’s personality & psycho-spiritual system.  Our problems begin when we forget our essential, primary selves & mix up the imaginary self with the true self.  At is at this stage where we forget our station in the existential realm, the nature of our relationship with our Creator, our essential capabilities & propensities, etc…  We give up & lose our desired, meaningful lives & trade it in for physical, materialistic issues.  This forgetting brings with itself various bodily & mental burdens.

وَمَن أَعرَضَ عَن ذِكري فَإِنَّ لَهُ مَعيشَةً ضَنكًا وَنَحشُرُهُ يَومَ القِيامَةِ أَعمىٰ

20:124 – But whoever neglects My remembrance, he shall lead a despicable life, and on the Day of Resurrection We shall raise him blind.’

Therefore, the religion of Islam necessitates God-awareness in order to prevent self-alienation, remove existential deficiencies, & acquire sound mental & cognitive health.

وَلا تَكونوا كَالَّذينَ نَسُوا اللَّهَ فَأَنساهُم أَنفُسَهُم ۚ أُولٰئِكَ هُمُ الفاسِقونَ

59:19 – And do not be like those who forget Allah, so He makes them forget their own selves. It is they who are open sinners.

يا أَيُّهَا النّاسُ أَنتُمُ الفُقَراءُ إِلَى اللَّهِ ۖ وَاللَّهُ هُوَ الغَنِيُّ الحَميدُ

35:15 – O mankind! You are the ones who stand in need of Allah, and Allah—He is the All-sufficient, the All-laudable.

الَّذينَ آمَنوا وَتَطمَئِنُّ قُلوبُهُم بِذِكرِ اللَّهِ ۗ أَلا بِذِكرِ اللَّهِ تَطمَئِنُّ القُلوبُ

13:28 – those who have faith, and whose hearts find rest in the remembrance of Allah.’ Look! The hearts find rest in Allah’s remembrance!

One of the most important functions of religion is to establish God-awareness & its correlation to self-awareness, as well as the effectiveness of both on personality growth & mental well-being.  Though it has a very particular place in Islam, all religions of God have addressed this issue.  Thinkers such as Kierkegaard, James, Frankl, Jung, & Allport in their works have all highlighted various points regarding communication with God: the existence of the divine essence and presence of God in the unconscious mind, the deep internal relationship between God and man, the effects of finding God regarding accepting and finding oneself, acquiring identity, educating and solidifying personality, developing psychological order within the emotional, cognitive, and behavioral realms, & compensating for weaknesses, needs, and existential vacuums (feelings of self-alienation and emptiness), & curing cognitive and mental disorders.

Some scholars, such as Hajj Mirza Javad Agha Maliki Tabrizi (q) & Shaheed Mutahhari (r), are of the opinion that in reality, self-awareness or being aware of oneself, is an extension of God-awareness.  There are empirical scientists who are aware of the interrelated nature of religious & personality factors on 2 levels.  On the 1st are factors like building a deeper & closer relationship with God, spiritual experiences, the God-image, & reliance on God.  On the 2nd level, factors include uniting with God, self-evolution, self-conceptualization and self-reflection, & self-esteem.  Finally, they examine the role played by the psychological relationship indicators between the 2 levels.  According to psychologists, this God-image, or conceptualization of God, is obtained at the level of perception, by one’s personal experience, & relationship with God.  This concept is very similar to the God-awareness that religions speak of.  This idea appears in the research done by Richard Lawrence in which he describes the significant negative correlation between “self-orientation” and “self-alienation”.

Keeping in mind the scarcity of research on the important function of God-awareness, we will have to suffice ourselves with the limited & indirect studies on the connection between God-awareness & self-awareness.  Allport believes there exists personality traits like self-awareness, within internal religious orientation.  Watson & Ghorbani’s research show the interconnectedness between self-knowledge, personality factors, & the healthiest forms of religiosity.

What, in truth, is the relationship between God-awareness & self-awareness & what is the nature of their psychological effects?  How does God-awareness influence self-awareness?  How do we proceed & with what method do we evaluate the Islamic Educational & Psychological schematics in this regard?  Where will the empirical results of these experiments take us?  Based on these questions, the author of this book has decided to break down the discussion as follows:

1st: the role God-awareness play in our lives

2nd: God-awareness: its various levels, components, & psychological effects

3rd: the self & self-awareness: its various structures & dimensions

4th: the nature of the relationship & effectiveness between God-awareness & self-awareness using an Islamic-Psychological approach

5th: the relationship between God-awareness & self-awareness in the area of empirical research

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